I’d never been as nervous as when I watched Eric climb into the fighter jet with the butterflies in my stomach equally due to both my unease and the sight of Eric’s ass in a flight suit.
Laf was right; I WAS a lucky bitch.
I hoped he’d get to keep it while hoping I wouldn’t have a reason to regret arranging his surprise in the first place, but he’d been so happy to be there I refused to let my own fear of flying spoil it for him. Both Sam and Terry tried to soothe me by telling me he would be fine, but my stomach was in knots and remained that way until Eric was back on solid ground. His exuberant twirling me around in the air didn’t help my stomach any, but at least he was there for me to throw up on and not lost somewhere over the Pacific, so it was fine by me.
I was getting more comfortable watching him from the sidelines as he interacted with all of the military men and women that flocked over once his flight was through, especially the women. I couldn’t blame them; he was hot, but I didn’t feel threatened or jealous in any way because while he smiled for the pictures he took with them and was nothing but sincere in his conversations with them, it was nothing like when he smiled and spoke with me.
It was hard to remember him as the asshole I’d woken up next to only a week earlier and thinking of him as a shallow and superficial douche bag. Seeing him interact with everyone at the shelter and again at the base was a complete contradiction to what I’d seen then, only now I knew better. He proved my new character assessment of him to be true when he lamented over his perceived inferior occupation compared to the men and women we’d just left back at the base on our way home. He was as shallow as the Pacific Ocean he’d just flown over.
I was a different kind of nervous as we drove back home after stopping for dinner and buying enough condoms to supply Amsterdam’s Red Light District for a week. My mouth was dry because all of the fluids in my body were pooling in my panties, so I was thankful Eric hadn’t tried to talk to me on the way knowing I’d sound like a dental patient with their mouth full of cotton. Despite his size I knew Amelia was wrong; no lube would be necessary, after the build up over the last few days, and I was surprised I hadn’t shriveled up like a raisin since I was sure all of the liquids had to have left my body by then, but the moisture I felt between my thighs proved me wrong.
My mind was so focused on the things Eric and I would soon be doing to each other that if it weren’t for the seatbelt strapping me down I would’ve jumped a mile high hearing my cell phone ring. I almost didn’t answer it seeing Jason’s name flash on my caller ID, but since he rarely called me I figured something must be up; like his libido itching to get his hands on Eric’s list of fuck buddies, so I was stunned when he said, “Sook, Gran’s in the hospital. She had another heart attack.”
“Gran?” She’d had a minor heart attack when I was still in high school and I was worried this one was worse.
“Yeah. The doc said it was a mild one, whatever the fuck that means, but it didn’t look so mild to me when I found her on the kitchen floor.”
“Why? What happened?” My overactive brain pictured her writhing around on the worn linoleum floor with her hands clutching at her chest.
“I showed up expectin’ the fried chicken dinner she said she was makin’ me, but I found her on the floor lyin’ in a pool of her own blood. She musta been gettin’ ready to fry the chicken because it was sittin’ on the counter, but it musta hit her as she was carryin’ the skillet to the stove. I think she hit her head on it when she went down.”
“Oh my God! Is she okay? Are you at the hospital in Monroe? What did the doctors say? Does she need surgery? Is she in pain? Is she asking for me?” The questions tumbled out of my mouth as fast as my brain could form them. I didn’t even realize we were parked in front of the house until I felt Eric’s hand on my leg and I turned to see him looking back at me concerned. “Gran had a heart attack,” I whispered.
Jason broke in at that moment saying, “Yeah, we’re at the hospital in Monroe and Gran seems fine now. She needed a couple a stitches on her head, but the docs said she didn’t need any surgery and should be fine with just medication. She didn’t want me to tell ya ’til after she was back home cuz she didn’t wanna worry ya none.”
“That’s ridiculous!” I practically shouted. “I have every right to know what’s going on! She’s all we have left…” My shouts ended in a sob and Eric leaned over wrapping his long arms around me as I cried into his shoulder with the phone still pressed to my ear.
“Well I called ya didn’ I?”
“Yeah, you did. How long will she have to be there?” I asked as my mind ran through the list of things I needed to do while we’d be on the phone, like calling Mr. Brigant to arrange some time off and making airline reservations.
“You know how ornery Gran can be. She’s already fussin’ at the docs to let her go now, but they said the earliest would be tomorra’ afternoon.”
“Alright. I’m going to go make some calls and get the first flight into Shreveport I can. I’ll call you back as soon as I know when I’ll get in. Can you pick me up?”
“Yeah, I’ll come get ya, but I won’t tell Gran you’re comin’. Figure she won’t tan my hide for tellin’ ya once she sees ya face to face. That new man a yours comin’ too?”
I hadn’t even considered the possibility of Eric coming with me. I’d been so used to dealing with family issues alone that the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. “I’m not sure, but I’ll let you know when I call you back.”
“Well if he ain’t, can ya bring me his little black book?”
“Jason Stackhouse! Now is NOT the time for you to be looking for new wet hole to stick your dick in and you better not leave Gran alone at the hospital tonight to go cattin’ around!”
“Jeez Sook, calm the fuck down. You’re the one that told me I should read more an’ I figured that would be a book to hold my interest.”
“Good Lord Jason. I’ll call you back!” I hung up before I could really light into him, knowing I’d need him to pick me up at the airport, and looked back at Eric saying, “She’s okay. The doctors said she doesn’t need surgery and they’ll release her tomorrow afternoon, but I want to go take care of her for a few days to make sure she’s alright.”
“Of course,” Eric replied. “Do you want me to go with you?”
I did, I really did, but I knew he had responsibilities and couldn’t just take off without there being consequences he’d have to deal with. From everything Jason had told me I knew Gran wasn’t in danger of dying on us and if she reacted now like she had the first time this had happened, I knew she’d be grumpy being fussed over too much and doubted she’d want to meet Eric for the first time in that state of mind. Testing the waters I asked, “What will happen with the show if you take off with no notice?”
He shrugged his shoulders saying, “I’m not sure. I’ve never done that before, but it would mean delaying production for however long I was gone. I don’t care though; you’re more important to me than some stupid job.”
If my heart had been tearing in two hearing Gran was ill, his words had just pieced it back together. “I know a lot of people depend on you showing up for work and if I go by Jason’s account, Gran isn’t really in any danger. He’s normally about as useful as a trapdoor on a canoe, but he loves her just as much as I do and wouldn’t gloss over her condition if something was really wrong. This has happened once before and I’m probably overreacting by rushing out there, but I just need to see her for my own peace of mind. Me fussing over her will make me feel better, but will get her angrier than a mule chewing bumblebees. How about I fly out there on my own and if she’s actually worse off than I think she is I’ll call you to come out there with me?”
I could tell Eric was trying to fight off the smile that was threatening to come out and my ‘What?’ look had him explaining, “As useful as a trapdoor on a canoe? Angrier than a mule chewing bumblebees?”
“I can’t help it,” I smiled.” Talking to Jason automatically brings it out and makes me more country than a bowlful a grits.”
He couldn’t fight the smile any longer and leaned forward placing a kiss on my forehead before saying, “Are you sure you want to go alone?”
No. “Yes.” Glancing at the clock I saw it was nearly 8pm and said, “I doubt I can get a flight out tonight, but the sooner I can get there and see with my own two eyes that she’s fine, the sooner I can come back.”
As it turned out I could get a flight out that was leaving LAX at midnight, so I rushed around packing my things while making all of the phone calls I needed to make before Eric drove me to the airport. I’d have to change planes in Houston, but I would land in Shreveport by 8:30 the following morning. I’d broken down a few times while trying to get everything done when the fear of losing Gran would hit me, but Eric was always there to calm me down with both his touch and his words. I was starting to second guess my initial decision to go alone, but there was nothing to be done for it once we were at the airport. Since he couldn’t go with me beyond the security checkpoint we were left saying our goodbyes in the terminal lobby.
He wrapped his arms around me and leaned down giving me tender kiss before saying, “Call me when you get in so I know you arrived safely.”
“Okay,” I sniffed, clutching him tighter. I really didn’t want to go without him anymore, but I held it in.
“I…” he paused for a moment and then said, “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too,” I replied, silently adding ‘I already do.’
I refused to look back at him when we parted knowing I would lose it all over again and was proud of the fact I held in my tears until I reached the gate, but there was nothing holding me back from letting them fall anymore. When I was comfortably seated in my first class seat Eric had insisted on getting me, and I didn’t have the strength to argue at the time, my phone buzzed in my hand and I looked down reading a text from Eric.
I miss you already.
A sob choked its way out from my throat and with trembling hands I texted back, ‘Me too.’ The long hours of the day quickly set in and I cried myself to sleep and never felt the plane leave the ground.
By the time the plane landed in Houston I woke up discovering my phone had died during the flight since I’d never turned it off. My charger was packed in my checked luggage and my connecting flight was delayed, so by the time I landed in Shreveport at 11:30 the following morning I was anxious to find Jason so I could call Eric. Thankfully he was waiting for me near the baggage claim and from the looks of it he was chatting up a pretty flight attendant. I had no idea if he’d been waiting there since 8:30 and hadn’t noticed my tardiness due to his attempts to bed every woman in the state (even if they’re just passing through) or he’d actually checked and saw my flight had been delayed. If I hadn’t been so eager to hear Eric’s voice I probably would’ve laughed hearing Jason’s attempt to woo her saying, “You’re finer than a frog’s hair split four ways,” but it only made me miss Eric even more knowing he missed out hearing it too, so I barged up to him saying, “Hey Jase, give me your phone.”
My rude interruption didn’t make him break his stride one bit as he reached into his pocket and handed it to me without even a ‘Hello’. I couldn’t call him out on it since I hadn’t greeted him with more than a ‘Hey’, so I took the phone and wandered away dialing Eric’s number. I knew it was 9:30 back in L.A. and expected he’d be on his way to work so I was hoping to catch him, but when I waited for the call to connect, I got a recorded message instead telling me his number had been changed to a new unpublished number.
What the fuck? Why in the hell would he change his number without telling me?
I looked down at the screen to make sure I’d dialed it correctly and I had, so I tentatively tried the home number and crossed my fingers praying it still worked. If not, I knew the assumptions we both swore off would come flying right back. It was still working, but when he didn’t answer I left him a message telling him my flight had been delayed and I got in alright. I mentioned his cell phone number not working and said I’d call him again later on that night at home.
Once I had my luggage in hand I grabbed Jason and pulled him away asking, “How’s Gran?”
Hearing me say her name must’ve jostled the hamsters in his head and the manners she’d taught him kicked in as he grabbed the suitcase from my hand and carried it for me while he said, “Aww…she’s alright.” He paused and his step slowed making me look over and seeing the fear in his eyes he admitted, “It shook me up pretty bad Sook. I was afraid we’d lost her when I found her like that.”
The perpetual tears sprung from my eyes again as I reached over and hugged him saying, “I know Jase, but we’ve still got her so we should just be grateful and enjoy her for however long we have her.” We both let go of each other and started walking to where he’d parked his truck and knowing Jason had a hard time keeping secrets I said, “You didn’t tell Gran I was flying in did you?”
He snorted replying, “Nah, she’d a had me busier than a cat coverin’ shit on a marble floor gettin’ the house ready for ya.”
I should really be writing some of this stuff down for Eric.
As we got to his truck my mouth fell open reading the bumper sticker on the back. ‘If she ain’t a hummin; she ain’t a cummin’.
“Jason Stackhouse! Tell me you’re not driving our grandmother around with that shit on your bumper!” I pointed accusingly at it because, well, it was Jason so there were no guarantees he’d know what I was talking about without visual directions.
“You ain’t been home five minutes and you’re already yammerin’ at me. NO I don’t drive Gran around in my truck; her joints hurt too much to climb in an’ outta it.” He had the nerve to give me the ‘Duh!’ look I normally gave him.
I bit my tongue and climbed in and while we were on our way to the hospital I reassured him in no uncertain terms that I did not have Eric’s little black book in my possession and even if I did, I wouldn’t give it to him. It would be ashes.
We finally arrived at the hospital a short while later and I choked back the sob in my throat seeing her lying in the hospital bed with tubes and wires running from her frail body. She looked like she’d aged ten years since I’d last seen her at Christmas, but I plastered a smile onto my face as I entered the room. She’d been engrossed watching one of her ‘stories’ on TV, but turned as I neared her bed and with a huge smile she held her arms open wide saying, “Baby girl!”
I soaked her shoulder with my tears as I held her in my arms and eventually whispered out, “Hi Gran. I’ve missed you so much.” I didn’t realize how much until that very moment.
“There there,” she said patting my back. “Your Gran still has a few years left in her so there’s no need to get all worked up now.” When I finally released her and sat in the chair next to her bed she started smoothing her hair with her hands and looking around before asking, “Where’s Eric?”
I smiled realizing Gran had been primping for him and replied, “He’s working.”
“Oh,” she sighed in disappointment.
She started getting the same look she used to whenever I told her why Quinn hadn’t come home with me when we’d still been together and I didn’t want her to think poorly of Eric so I added, “He offered to come, but they would’ve had to halt production on his show since he’s the star and Jason said you were okay so I told him I would come alone. But, if I called him right now and said I needed him here he’d be on the first plane out of L.A.” I knew it was true, he would drop everything and come to me, but I’d need his new number first.
I allowed myself one inner scowl before concentrating on Gran again as she peered over my shoulder and said, “Jason said?”
“Aww, come on now Gran. You cain’t ‘spect me to keep somethin’ like that from Sook. She’s faster ‘an you and woul’ put a whoopin’ on me once she foun’ out.” Jason did the ‘aww shucks/puppy dog eyes’ routine he’d mastered over the years and Gran’s ire was snuffed out before it ever had a chance to start.
We all sat around playing catch up for a few hours until they finally released Gran from the hospital. Jason had run back and grabbed Gran’s car so she wouldn’t have to climb in and out of his truck and as we later turned onto the deeply rutted gravel driveway and the farmhouse came into view I was shocked. In all of the years I had been gone the moment I saw the farmhouse again I always had a sense of coming home, but this time was different. It was Gran’s home; my childhood home, but it no longer felt like my home.
I didn’t want to think over the ‘whys’ just then and instead helped Gran inside while Jason brought in our bags. I was grateful he’d taken the time to clean up the blood from the floor, so I didn’t harp on him for leaving the chicken out on the counter for all of that time and just bagged it up and dumped it in the garbage can outside. As expected Gran got a little snippy when we tried to do too much, in her estimation, but she finally settled down and went to sleep a little after eight.
Jason left soon after and I’d been fighting exhaustion all day long having only slept for the short time it took to get from L.A. to Houston, but knowing it was just after 6 back in L.A. I wanted to try calling Eric again before I went to sleep. He didn’t answer when I tried calling him at the house, so I went up to my room to get my charger from my bag and plug in my cell phone, but stopped short seeing Eric’s face staring back at me from every wall. The posters were all from when he was much younger, but it didn’t stop me from tracing his features with my finger and I ached to touch him in person. I sat on my bed and allowed myself to be comforted by at least being surrounded by his pictures since I couldn’t have his arms just then like I really wanted. I never even felt myself falling asleep with my still dead cell phone in my hand.